Don Hogan Charles/The New York TimesPeople along Court Street between Montague and Remsen streets in Brooklyn.
By SAM ROBERTS
Published: February 19, 2006
With higher birth rates among Hispanic and Asian New Yorkers, immigrants continuing to gravitate to New York City and a housing boom transforming all five boroughs, the city is struggling to cope with a phenomenon that few other cities in the Northeast or Midwest now face: a growing population. It is expected to pass nine million by 2020.
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Population Boom New York might need an extra million or so slices of cake for its 400th birthday party in 2025.
Estimated today at a record 8.2 million, the population is expected to reach nearly 9.4 million in 2025. But that projected growth poses potential problems that New York is just starting to grapple with: ensuring that there are enough places in which to live, work, attend school and play and that transportation and energy are adequate.
Elaborating on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s disclosure last month that city planners were drafting a strategy to cope with this expected growth, Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development, said the city could accommodate a million additional people or more, but only if it began planning for their needs now.
“We have the capacity through rezoning and underutilized land to go well over that number,” he said. “But you cannot simply divorce the issue of growth from the infrastructure required to support it. It opens up great opportunities only if the growth is smart, if we have the things that make cities worth living in.”
Mr. Doctoroff said the strategy would explore opportunities for growth both citywide and in 188 individual neighborhoods. It would determine how land use regulations and other constraints might be altered to create sufficient housing, schools, subway routes and parks, preserve factory jobs and identify sites for less desirable but necessary structures, including power plants.
Last month, the New York Building Congress, a trade group, estimated that proposed development, including the World Trade Center site and the Hudson Yards in Manhattan and the Atlantic Terminal area in Brooklyn, would generate a 21 percent increase in jobs by 2025. That, the group said, would require new sources of electricity.
In his State of the City address last month, Mr. Bloomberg said that he would present a “strategic land use plan” in April. That will explore the potential for growth, identify the constraints and recommend how to provide the housing, transportation, energy and other public works, including parks, to accommodate a larger population, the mayor said.
“Making sure that every community shares in the New York we are building also requires us to look to the future and plan for the future in ways we haven’t dared in decades,” the mayor said.
Among the goals of the plan, Mr. Doctoroff said, are to produce greater geographic diversity — more jobs in Downtown Brooklyn, Flushing and Jamaica in Queens, the South Bronx, Harlem and the Far West Side — and to preserve manufacturing jobs.
City officials rarely engage in long-range planning, particularly for growth. A short-lived proposal for “planned shrinkage” was advanced in the mid-1970’s, sandwiched between a comprehensive statement of urban challenges and potential solutions in 1969 and a candid but still largely optimistic assessment in 1987.
“This will be different,” Mr. Doctoroff said. “Much more practical.”
New York has ranked first in population among American cities since the first census in 1790. Almost steadily since the 1940’s, more people have been leaving the city for other parts of the country than have arrived here from other areas of the nation.
Growth in the 1980’s and especially the 1990’s has been largely driven by immigration. Foreigners are expected to account for much of the growth in the next two decades, growth that, according to the forecasts, would keep New York in first place among the nation’s cities and maintain the New York metropolitan region either as the largest or, at least, tied with Los Angeles.
One recent study, by Regina Armstrong of Urbanomics, a consultant to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, an intergovernmental planning group, also projects that by 2025, the Bronx will be home to 1.5 million people and Brooklyn to 2.8 million — surpassing their mid-20th century peaks.